Question from ask_thedoctor:
How did the rest of the conference do re: incoming players getting drafted?
*Author’s note: In case you were wondering why this mail bag took so long to answer, it’s because of this question.
Vanderbilt got hit the hardest in this year’s draft, and it wasn’t particularly close. I was expecting two to three more players in this recruiting class to make it to campus. Those players would have been Noah Schultz, Sal Stewart, and Ryan Clifford. Both Schultz and Clifford were taken in the first round, and paid the big bucks. That was very surprising for Stewart, most scouting services pegged him around the 90th best player in the draft, and the Reds gave him around $2.1 mil. That was not remotely expected. It was not surprising for Schultz based on talent, but it was surprising given the rumor was he had floated out a number close to $4 million prior to the draft, and teams were expected to balk at that. However, his home town team drafted him, and he signed for $2.8 mil. That could have been bad intel on our part, but it’s much more likely he gave them the “dream of playing for my hometown team” discount. Either way, both were deemed “tough signs,” and I gave them a 50/50 chance of reaching campus. We got neither. With Clifford, somehow the Houston Trashcan Bangers squirreled away enough to be able to pay him #1.25 mil after tabbing him in the 11th round. In case you’re wondering how they pulled that off, read this.
No one expected Druw Jones, Dylan Lesko, or Brandon Barreira to make it out of the 1st round, and they all were drafted and signed for massive bonuses.
Karson Milbrandt also got back end of the first round money ($1.5 mil), though the Marlins took him in the 3rd. When he made it out of the top 2 rounds, I thought there might be a chance, but I didn’t expect there to be much of a chance of him making it to campus going into the draft.
In all, we lost 8 of our top 10 commits, and I expected us to lose 6. It would have been a coup to lose only 5.
In short, our 2022 class has 2 top 100 commits, and 6 in the top 250.
The club that was hit 2nd hardest was LSU, who lost 5 of their top commits. They kept the 2nd highest rated recruit (#19 OF Paxton King) away from MLB teams. They landed 7 top 100 commits, and 12 in the top 250. We would kill for that class.
That gives LSU, though they lost a bunch, the best incoming class in the SEC. The best SEC classes, in descending order, were:
1) LSU: 7 top 100 commits, and 12 in the top 250.
2) Auburn: 4 top 100 commits, and 6 in the top 250.
3) Clanga: 4 top 100 commits, and 4 in the top 250.
4) Vanderbilt: 2 top 100 commits, and 6 in the top 250.
5) Arky: 2 top 100 commits, and 6 in the top 250.
6) Florida: 2 top 100 commits, and 5 in the top 250.
7) South Cackalacky: 2 top 100 commits, and 5 in the top 250.
8) Alabama: 1 top 100 commits, and 5 in the top 250.
9) Tennessee: 1 top 100 commits, and 4 in the top 250.
10) aTm: 0 top 100 commits, and 5 in the top 250.
11) Ole Piss: 0 top 100 commits, and 4 in the top 250.
12) Georgia: 0 top 100 commits, and 3 in the top 250.
13) Kentucky: 0 top 100 commits, and 3 in the top 250.
14) Missourah (spits): 0 top 100 commits, and 1 in the top 250.
If you want to be an optimist, we did get the top rated player in the 2022 class who came to campus. The #15 rated player, RHP Andrew “The Duke” Dutkanych, withdrew his name from the draft, and should be expected to battle for a spot in the starting rotation right away (either Sunday or midweek starter). No other team can claim that. However, at least three of the other teams had deeper classes than we did, with LSU just running away with the best class. Here’s the Perfect Game link to our class.
I’d take solace in the fact that The Chuggers’ class sucked hard, but we all know they don’t recruit freshmen... they recruit current players from other teams.
Question from Dinard’oh:
Is it fair to assume that Corbs anticipated most of the attrition from the draft and has a plan? Or do we need to have a different recruiting strategy that focuses more energy on some guys who are more likely to end up on campus? Are these ideas even mutually exclusive?
I think, like me, he thought he would have gotten 8-9 of our top 250 rated commits through this year’s draft. That he only got 6 of them, and really only one who’s a no-doubt blue-chipper, has to chaff his wheat. In short, when you recruit the best, you’re playing with MLB Draft level fire. This year, we got burned. It has happened before. On the flip side, we have also had years where we got Kumar Rocker or Jack Leiter, and quite literally no other program is able to convince someone that highly regarded by MLB scouts to turn down the big bucks. Hopefully, next year, we have better luck with the draft.
I mean, last year, in 2021, we only lost 3. In 2020 (the Shockwave class), we only lost our top 2 commits. In 2019, we lost 4, but kept Leiter. In 2018, we lost 6, but kept Rocker. In 2017, we got through the draft completely unscathed, and kept 5 top 100 players, including Austin Martin. In 2016, we lost 4, but got Fellows and Bleday. I’m going to stop before I go through every single class, but I hope you get the point. This year, we were eviscerated, plain and simple. That’s not always the case.
I mean, yes, our best prospect in 2017 (when none of our players signed) was #43 Jake Eder, so we didn’t have one of those “loaded beyond belief” classes. However, these kids commit so damned early (many before 10th grade ends), that there is a frighteningly high amount of variance from where they are ranked when they commit to where they are ranked come draft day. Pretty much since Pedro Alvarez committed, and certainly since they were the #1 team in 2007, Vanderbilt has been able to get the best young players interested in their program. Sometimes, those players are so good, the MLB teams buy them away. Some times, even though they are so good that they are offered millions, they come to us anyway. Some times, like with Austin Martin and Dansby Swanson, to name a few, they really are amongst the best players in their class, but the scouts got it wrong when they were 18.
I don’t know the answer to this, but I’d like them to figure it out.
Question from Your Uncle Mike:
Why couldn’t/shouldn’t, after a MLB draft like this, Corbs start calling commitments to other schools and getting them to flip?
You raise a really strong point, and one that has me worried in this current “portal” edition of NCAA baseball. Many of our opponents have figured out that you can
bribe, I mean bag-man, I mean, legally purchase a free agent or several with NIL deals via scouting other college baseball teams for transfers. I mean, that 2022 Chuggers team was almost exclusively made from stealing a lesser team’s best players.
It’s certainly not unethical to try to poach another team’s commits, but the turnaround between the draft (and especially the 8/1 signing day) and the deadline to get commits to campus so they’re enrolled in fall classes is frighteningly short. Could it be done? I mean... yeah, but only if you were able to convince all of your 2nd choice players to not enroll in summer school at the college they committed to.
In short, the ethically unethical thing to do in the transfer portal era is to... nope, I can’t finish that sentence. Vomited a bit in my mouth.
I don’t know the right thing to do... I just know that the wrong thing to do is being repeatedly done by our conference competitors (cough, LSU, The Chuggers, et al, cough), and we’d better have a conversation about it, as we are fast getting left in the dust by the unethical schools in terms of manipulating the transfer portal.
Question from Chasrad:
Is Vaz in your starting lineup?
Well, he was drafted and signed with the Kansas City Royals. So... no. Hopefully, he will start on his new minor league team, though.
Javier Vaz posts a goodbye statement indicating he's signing with the Royals https://t.co/JY2Jhkg7Zy— Aria Gerson (@aria_gerson) July 25, 2022
Question from Heavydore:
Give your predicted starting line-up and starting pitchers for first SEC series (Corbs sometimes tinkers until we start conference play). I’ll pen in Shockwave batting 1 in CF, you fill in the rest...
My Starting Rotation (not necessarily Brownie and Corbs’):
1) Carter Holton
2) Devin Futrell
3) Michael Doolin
4) Andrew Dutkanych
I just think they will need a reliable control guy (Doolin) amongst the baby aces. Patrick Reilly was considered, but I’ve just never been able to see him go deep, reliably in a game. Have him close or piggyback with The Duke.
My Starting Lineup (again, just mine):
1) CF Enrique Shockwave (duh)
2) RF Calvin Hewett
3) C Jack Bulger
4) 1B Parker Noland
5) LF Matthew Polk
6) SS Davis Diaz
7) 2B Jonathan Vastine
8) 3B R.J. Austin
9) DH T.J. McKenzie
I could also see Rob Gordon winning the job at 2B, 3B, or DH, or McKenzie winning the OF job over Polk (whose bat should be good enough to get into this lineup at DH in that eventuality). If LaNeve is able to return to his postseason 2021 form, he’s got to be in the lineup, as well (LF, DH, 1B, moving Noland to 3rd are all options). This is just my first stab at it.
Question from VandyFan1:
You will find true love on Flag Day.
Question from AspenVU:
Did anyone have a more delicious Super Regional than me? I was in Knoxville when THEM choked.
I’m not sure how to answer this. You didn’t drink their tears of unfathomable sadness from an eyelash-mullet-luge, did you?
Question from BarnDore1950:
The pitching staff looks unbelievably strong for next year. I am still a little worried about our bats. Your thoughts please.
This is a correct assessment. We’ve got a CWS level pitching staff, and a South Cackalacky or Alabama level lineup. Would have been great to buy a few bats off the NIL transfer portal, or at the very least, keep I.T. and Gavin Casas from transferring, but (screams into a pillow).
Question from Parlagi:
QFTMB: does this mean the Vanderbunt is a viable strategy for next season, and why is your answer yes?
Okay, my answer is 100% yes. Scroll up and check the lineup (or possible lineups) we are going to roll out next year. Arguably the best power bats will belong to Jack Bulger and Calvin Hewett. That’s a far cry from the thunder in Dom Keegan’s and Spencer Jones’ bats. Beyond that, look at my 5-9 in the order (Polk, Diaz, Vastine, Austin, and McKenzie) and tell me that doesn’t scream “situational bunting.” With our rotation and bullpen—which should be very good to absolutely dominant—finding a way to manufacture 2-3 runs a game will be paramount. Beyond that, the speed in this lineup—obviously Shockwave (46-46 sb) leading off, but also Cal Hewett (5-6 sb), and Davis Diaz (4-4 sb) should be expected to get the green light all year—is now our most potent offensive weapon. No one in the lineup should really slow things down, with even Bulger and Noland fast for their respective positions. Yeah... if we’re not triple stealing like 2012, we’re doing it wrong in 2023.